By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Mon. Oct. 11, 2021: More than 56,000 Haitian migrants have trekked through the perilous Darien Gap Jungle to Panama from Colombia this year hoping to reach the United States, Canada, or Mexico.
That’s according to reports the International Organization for Migration, (IOM). The Darien Gap is a geographic region between the North and South American continents within Central America, consisting of a large watershed, forest and mountains in the northern portion of Colombia’s Choco Department and Panama’s Darien Province.
The figure for the first nine months triples the previous record of 30,000 on the same route during all of 2016.
“Border closures and economic contractions due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in irregular migration,” said Santiago Paz, IOM Chief of Mission in Panama. “Caribbean and extra-regional migrants make the crossing in extremely vulnerable conditions and are exposed to risks along their migratory route, particularly in the crossing of the Darien Gap on the border between Panama and Colombia.”
Between January and September 2021, many of the 56,600 Haitian migrants were accompanied by children born during their migratory journey. Migrants also arrive from Cuba (12.8K), Venezuela (1.5K) and dozens of countries in Asia and Africa, including Bangladesh, Senegal, Ghana, Uzbekistan, India and Nepal.
The news comes as Guatemalan police said Saturday that they rescued 126 mainly Haitian migrants from an abandoned shipping container on the side of a road.
Guatemalan authorities said they searched the trailer around dawn after residents heard screams coming from within, the BBC reported. The shipping container was found in an area between the towns of Nueva Concepcion and Cocales in the country’s south. Of those found,106 were from Haiti, 11 from Nepal and nine from Ghana, AFP reported.
The latest report highlights how the desperate flow of people from Haiti and across South America has not abated despite the recent wave of U.S. deportations and officials from the US warning migrants to avoid the journey.
Police suspect they had paid to be illegally taken to the United States via Mexico by smugglers, who instead abandoned them on the road.
Refugee advocates have been particularly concerned about a recent surge in migrants from Haiti, the western hemisphere’s poorest nation that’s now also facing the world’s highest per capita kidnapping rate.
The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, said on Saturday that a solution on a new wave of migration from Haiti has to be led by both the United States and Mexico, the
“It is a very significant issue for both countries, it’s a significant issue for the Western Hemisphere,” he told a news conference.
Salazar’s comments come a day after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on a visit following a period of strained cooperation.
Blinken on Friday warned Haitian migrants that they would not succeed in reaching the United States, while his Mexican counterpart lamented that many had been tricked into undergoing the long trek with false hopes.
“The journey is profoundly dangerous and it will not succeed,” Blinken told a news conference in Mexico’s capital when asked about how the United States was ensuring humane treatment of migrants.
He said U.S. and Mexican officials are in “close contact” over a jump in Haitian migrants passing through Mexico, many having traveled from South America where they had initially settled.
Speaking alongside Blinken, Mexico Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said many Haitian migrants who trekked from South America to the border had been duped into thinking they could easily obtain legal residency in the United States.
For the thousands now in limbo in Mexico, he said the country could take them in and offer asylum.
“If 15,000 people come from Haiti, they want to work, they want to be here, it’s not a problem for Mexico,” Ebrard said, adding, however, that finding job opportunities was “not easy.”
Migrant rights groups have denounced deportations to Haiti, which is struggling with violence, poverty and political turmoil.
“Deportation to Haiti was not the right approach, was not humane,” the United Nations’ top refugee official Filippo Grandi said on Friday, adding that the United States and Mexico had sometimes deported people “without due process.”
“The situation faced by irregular migrants in transit in the Latin American and Caribbean region must be addressed from a regional approach and cannot be the responsibility of a single country,” IOM’s Paz said. “The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration recommends cooperation among States to respond quickly and coherently to the needs of migrants in vulnerable conditions, and this need for cooperation is especially evident in the Darien.”